A new homelessness hostel that could prevent more than 150 people a year from ending up on the streets has opened in Bexley.

If someone is homeless or at immediate risk of becoming so, they can stay at the Stepping Stones hostel – run by charity body Porchlight and funded by Bexley Council – for up to six weeks.

According to Porchlight spokesperson Chris Thomas, the facility and staff there will look to help address the causes of homelessness before people are forced to resort to rough sleeping, particularly in the face of a second coronavirus wave.

“It can be hard to take the first step and ask for support, but the sooner you feel able to talk to someone about the problems you have, the more that can be done to help.”

If a second wave of coronavirus causes a surge in rough sleeping, Porchlight warns that help must extend beyond simply offering people somewhere to stay.

“Tackling homelessness is about more than responding to people’s immediate needs by offering a bed, food or clothing,” explains Chris Thomas.

“People need ongoing support if they’re going to make the longer lasting changes they need to move away from homelessness for good. We must look at the long-term picture by housing people in their local area and giving them support for as long as takes them to regain their independence and reintegrate with the community.”

The charity says it will help those struggling with homelessness by helping them source more permanent accommodation, as well as giving lessons on money management and maintaining a tenancy.

The Stepping Stones project will also aim to help address other issues to nip potential homelessness in the bud; such as helping repair a person’s relationship with their family or partner,  addressing other issues they are facing (such as mental health issues or debt concerns), and helping them find them somewhere private to rent if this can’t be done.

Bexley Council has contracted Porchlight to run this project for a year. Five Porchlight staff members will be working at the property and in the local community to support people in need.

The facility will be a welcomed addition to Bexley Council’s homeless care sector.

It was only January 2019 when the authority revealed a surge in homelessness in the budget led to a £1m overspend in the council’s housing budget as the borough was forced to splash-out on temporary accommodation.